Thu, Aug

Dwight Yorke today told Villa that there were 12.6 million reasons why they should be grateful for the good times they had together as he prepares to return to his former stomping ground as a Blues player.

The striker admitted he has been disappointed with the hostile response of fans who once lauded him as a Holte  End hero, when he has gone back to Villa Park in the past.

Yorke, speaking exclusively to the Evening Mail, said he expected even more verbal abuse on Sunday in the Second City derby, but would cope with it.

Yorke left Villa for Manchester United in December 1998 for £12.6 million and scored 29 goals that treble-winning season.

But his transfer left a sour taste and on the four occasions he has played at Villa Park since, for United and Blackburn Rovers, he has run a gauntlet of hate.

"I left Villa to go to a big club," he said. "I didn't leave them to go straight to Birmingham City.

"I went to Manchester United and those opportunities do not come along very often. I think I was justified, I won more things than I could ever have dreamed of, the record there speaks for itself.

"It disappoints me how the Villa fans react towards me because, at the end of the day, when I was there I gave them everything I possibly could.

"No-one could say that I cheated them. I was very much at the top of my game at Villa and I left the club in a very good state.

"Villa invested very little money when I joined as a 17-year-old, I reimbursed them with a lot of goals, a lot of memories and I helped them win the League Cup.

"On top of that, I gave the club a hell of a lot of money back in return. How many peoplein that team now could bring in £12.6 million?

"So I don't understand how people can look back and really think that a guy who contributed all that deserves a lot of stick when he goes back into the Villa arena.

"No-one can ever take my time at Villa away. I enjoyed myself, I met some wonderful people and, in many respects, they gave me the opportunity to play there and start my career at a great stadium, in front of great fans.

"But it does disappoint me a little bit the way that the fans react towards me.

He added: "It's going back seven years ago the last time I put on the claret and blue, now I'm wearing the blue and white of Birmingham.

"Seven years ago, who was to say I was going to be back in this city playing for Birmingham?

"You don't know where your career is going to take you. We all have a life, all have a job to do. Situations and circumstances change.

"You've got to do what's best for you and at this point in my career, Birmingham is the best thing for me and it's a club that's going places. I want to be part of it - that's why I joined them.

"I'm happy to be at Birmingham, I've got a contract here and it's my duty to play for this football club, despite what Villa might think."

Ironically, there is no guarantee that Yorke will figure. He has not started since October 30 against Crystal Palace and has been on the substitutes' bench for the last five matches, coming on three times.

But manager Steve Bruce is well aware his motivation is high, as Yorke admitted: "I've done everything possible to prepare. The manager decides, but this one is just a little bit extra special for me.

"If he does call me on as a substitute or whatever, then I'd be raring to go. The Villa fans might not see the back of me just yet."

Yorke, scorer of 97 goals in 287 appearances for Villa over nine years, added: "I've never hadthe pleasure of playingin one of these games.

"I played Man United-Man City, but not this derby. I've heard so much about the Villa-Birmingham scenario.

"When I was at Villa, the teams wereneverinthe same division but now the game is almost here, I can feel it. The city isbubbling overaweebit about it - and I'm excited too."
Yorke said the result was vitally important for Blues, not just to secure local bragging rights: "Villa are doing great, certainly better than us.

"If we get a result, it could kickstart our season, change the whole complexion of everything and give everyone a big boost, which is what we need."